If you do not have a knot in your stomach, you should. Hearts managed to relegate themselves last season through inept performances against teams clearly below them in the food chain. They upped their game against Hibs and (especially) Newco, posing questions that the Budgeocracy has yet to consider. On Sunday, we face a team of usually-can’t-be-bothereds with a grudge.
In October, they started their Championship campaign by putting six goals past Dundee, whom they blame for siding with Peter Lawwell in the discussions that determined how last season’s league campaign would end. Then they beat Hibs, who they can always be bothered to play, in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
The new stands at Tynecastle act as a reservoir of resentment and Celtic are top of their list. Who else, other than their players, either managers, or the insightful new broom that was going to show football how it’s done in the business world, is there to blame for their relegation than Celtic.
And then there’s Eddie. You and I didn’t really discuss this at the time. A photo circulated showing the keeper took him out, but that was ‘fake news’ as it was not of the penalty incident in the 2019 final. Hand on heart; I think we got away with one then. A goal down in the second half, Odsonne Edouard took control; before you knew it, you were celebrating a Treble Treble.
I do not respect Heart of Midlothian FC whatsoever, but I respect any opponent who can so readily cultivate the unifying resentment that can produce results like the 4-0 that ended Celtic’s world record 69 domestic games unbeaten. This is a proper team, better than most in the Premiership and more than capable of winning on Sunday. If we are one inch less prepared than them, we will lose.
Before the Lille and Kilmarnock wins I saw a shroud of defeat ahead at Hampden. We may have turned it around just in time, but for now, the stomach remains knotted.